March 15, 2013
In this issue:
· Three weeks left of regular session
· Tax plan debated, amended, passed
· Senate passes paycheck deduction bill
· Judicial selection bill heads to governor’s desk
· Bill to eliminate statute of limitations heads to governor
· Suspended license bill, property tax bill pass out of committees
· Committee hears corporate farming bill
· Over at the House
· Veteran receives French Legion of Honor medal on Senate floor
· District happenings
· Office visitors
· Consumer education
· BPU to hold workshop
· Business of the year recipient
· Important state numbers
Three weeks left of regular session
We had a slow week last week, but that wasn’t the case this week. Committees held hearings on bills, worked them, and passed many out of committee for consideration on the Senate floor. We also had several days of floor votes.
This will be the pace for the next three weeks as we wrap up regular session. Please feel free to contact me with any concerns you have about legislation or committee meetings.
All House and Senate sessions are open to the public. Live broadcasts of Senate and House proceedings can be found at www.kslegislature.org.
I am honored to serve as your Senator. My office is located in room 125E. Please feel free to visit or to contact me at 785-296-7375 if you should have any questions.
Tax plan debated, amended, passed
After several delays, Gov. Brownback’s tax plan made it to the Senate floor Wednesday for debate. The plan in House Bill 2059 calls for retaining the sales tax rate, repealing the mortgage interest deduction, and making further cuts to income tax rates. The bill also includes clarifications and revisions of the original bill, House Bill 2017, which passed in 2012.
Members of the Senate offered 11 amendments Wednesday during the 5 hours of debate. The first major amendment that passed was one offered by Sen. Ty Masterson, R--Andover, which removes the full repeal of the mortgage interest deduction and, instead, reduces all itemized deductions by 24 percent. With this amendment, $1,000 worth of deductions will only result in a return of $760. The remaining $240 will go to the state.
These itemized deductions include the mortgage interest deduction, health care deductions, property tax deductions, union dues deductions, and so on. However, it will not include the charitable contribution deduction or the gambling losses deduction. Sen. Pat Apple, R-Louisburg, offered amendments, which passed, that reinstate the charitable contribution deduction to its full 100 percent and completely eliminate the gambling losses deduction.
I offered an amendment to reinstate the adoption tax credit for Kansas families that was eliminated in 2012. This passed on voice vote.
Amendments offered to sunset the sales tax, to reinstate tax credits such as the disabled access tax credit, the child independent care credit, the food sales tax rebate, and the homestead tax credit, and to increase the standard deduction, all failed.
I voted against Masterson’s amendment, but I voted for allowing the sales tax rate to sunset, reinstating the tax credits, removing the gambling loss deduction, and restoring the charitable contribution deduction to 100 percent.
When there isn’t an income tax, property tax rates and sales tax rates have to be higher. Kansas does not have an alternative source of income to replace what’s lost by Gov. Brownback’s income tax cuts for the wealthy and the large corporations. So, the proposed increase in the sales tax rate is merely a way to pay for the reckless cuts.
Once again, low-income and middle-class working Kansans will be hit hardest under this plan, and we will be headed down a path toward an $800 million budget deficit.
The bill passed on a vote of 25-14. The bill now goes to the House.
Senate passes paycheck deduction bill
Members of the Senate Commerce Committee combined House Bill 2023 with House Bill 2022 to create a substitute bill that now authorizes or prohibits certain paycheck deductions for private and public employees. The committee passed it out on Tuesday, and it was debated Thursday on the Senate floor.
House Bill 2023, commonly known as the “paycheck deception act,” prohibits public employees from contributing funds to be used by public employee organizations' political purposes through voluntary paycheck deductions and requires organizations to establish political action committees in order to use the money for political purposes.
The original language in the bill that defined “political activities” and stipulated no other income could be used for such activities has since changed. As amended in committee, the bill now stipulates that no income outside of the designated political action committee may be used for “partisan or political purposes” and defines it as any act done with the intent to influence a vote for any candidate for public office.
House Bill 2022 allows employers to withhold a portion of an employee’s wages for replacement cost or unpaid balance of employer’s merchandise or uniforms purchased by the employee, to recoup overpayment of wages, or to repay loans made by the employer to the employee. Additionally, it would allow an employer to deduct wages from a final paycheck to cover the cost of lost or stolen property provided to the employee during employment.
Since both bills pertain to paycheck deductions, the Senate Commerce Committee simply combined them into one. However, I still do not support it. It dictates how public employees can and cannot spend the money they’ve worked hard to earn. It’s also an attempt to stifle voices. This bill is directed at unions, particularly KNEA. It denies public employees to make individual decisions on what they want to do with their earned income.
In a 24-16 vote, the bill passed. Since the bill has changed since passing out of the House, it will now go back to the House, where the bill originated. If the House votes to concur or not concur, the bill will go to the governor’s desk.
Judicial selection bill heads to governor's desk
In a vote of 28-12, Senate passed House Bill 2019 on Wednesday. The bill changes the way judges are chosen for the state Court of Appeals and gives Gov. Brownback more control over the judicial branch.
Currently, a nominating commission of four lawyers – one from each congressional district – and four individuals appointed by the governor compile a list of four candidates. The governor must select an appellate judge from that list. The bill bypasses the current nomination process and allows the governor to fill an appellate court vacancy from whomever he chooses, with consent of the Senate.
I voted against the bill. The current process has a longstanding history of working well, and doesn’t need to be changed.
The House previously passed the bill by a vote of 68-54, so the bill will now go to Gov. Brownback’s desk for final approval.
Bill to eliminate statute of limitations heads to governor
Senate unanimously passed HB2252 Thursday after passing the Senate equivalent, SB167, a few weeks ago. Both bills eliminate the statute of limitations for rape and aggravated criminal sodomy. It would allow prosecution of extremely violent sex offenders to occur at any time. The bill also expands the statute of limitations for prosecution of a sexually violent crime. Sen. Oletha Faust-Goudeau of Wichita spearheaded this bill at the request of families of victims of sexual abuse.
The bill will now head to Gov. Brownback’s desk for final approval.
Suspended license bill, property tax relief bill move out of committee
Two “good news” bills passed out of committee this week.
The Senate Judiciary Committee passed out Senate Bill 6, known as the suspended license bill, which reinstates legislation that sunset in 2012. It allows individuals with suspended licenses that have resulted from unpaid fines related to traffic violations to submit an application with a $25 non-refundable application fee to the division of vehicles. Upon approval, applicants receive a restricted driver’s license and are allowed to drive to work so they can make wages to pay their fines. It also allows them to obtain insurance and drive legally. Plus, it has no cost to the state and the division of vehicles is already equipped to handle it. This bill is a win-win for everyone, and was also introduced by Senator Oletha Faust-Goudeau, a democrat.
The Senate Assessment and Taxation Committee voted Tuesday to pass Senate Bill 165 out of committee. This bill would provide relief to homeowners whose homes are destroyed or damaged by fire, wind, or other calamity. Current state law sets the tax value of property on Jan. 1 of each year. If that home were to be damaged or destroyed by a storm, counties would be authorized to grant property tax relief. County commissioners could elect to decrease of property taxes levied upon such property if the destruction occurred after Jan. 1, but prior to Aug. 15 or issue a credit if the damage occurred after Aug. 15, but prior to Jan. 1 of the following year.
Both bills will soon head to the Senate floor for debate.
Committee hears corporate farming bill
Members of the Senate Natural Resources Committee heard testimony last Friday on Senate Bill 191, otherwise known as the corporate farming bill.
The bill would amend corporate farming law by defining and establishing the limits for “agricultural business entities.” This means that any agricultural business entity would be permitted to operate anywhere in the state.
Current law encourages family farms – corporations composed primarily of members of the same family, who have at least one member residing or working on the farm and are all Kansas residents. It also allows local governments to have the discretion to restrict other agricultural business entities in their counties.
SB191 would strip the discretion from local governments and eliminate the restrictions of corporate agriculture entities operating within the state.
I believe this bill will push out longstanding, native-Kansas family farms. I also believe that this is an issue best addressed at the local level. I do not support this bill.
Over at the House
Much like the Senate, the House has been very busy working bills in committees and debating them on the floor. Here’s an overview of bills over at the House this week:
Gun law trio passes House, heads to Senate
The House passed Thursday three bills pertaining to guns.
House Bill 2052 revises current law to define the unlawful discharge of a firearm as the reckless discharge of any firearm within or into the corporate limits of a city.
House Bill 2199 established the Second Amendment Protection Act, which does two things: 1) excludes from federal regulation any personal firearm, firearm accessory, or ammunition manufactured commercially or privately and owned in Kansas; and, 2) prevents any federal agent or contracted employee, any state employee, or any local authority from enforcing any federal regulation or law governing firearms.
House Bill 2055 amends the concealed carry law to allow guns in state and municipal buildings. It also outlines new security requirements in those buildings. This bill takes away local control in deciding which public buildings should not allow conceal carry. The bill would authorize school districts and other educational entities to allow employees who are licensed for concealed carry of a handgun to carry in any building if the employee meets the entities’ policy requirements. This bill ignores the safety of the education environment in our schools.
These bills will now head to Senate committee for hearings and debate.
Testimony heard on anti-labor bill
Members of the House Commerce Committee heard testimony Thursday on the Worker’s Compensation, an anti-labor bill that passed Feb. 20 in the Senate on a vote of 32-8. It shortens the amount of time an employee has to file a report with their former employer from 20 days to 10 days and requires doctor’s to use the sixth edition of the American Medical Association Guides for Evaluation of Permanent Impairment, which has a reputation of being biased. I voted against it.
Civil Service bill hearing held
Members of the House Committee of Appropriations heard testimony Monday on House Bill 2384, the Civil Service bill. The committee was originally scheduled to hear the bill last Friday, but the chair postponed the hearing. The bill would make all new hires and any employee who changes position within state government unclassified. Plus, all state agency lawyers, supervisors and information technology specialists immediately unclassified. Unclassified staff is exempt from the Civil Service Act and able to be hired, fired, promoted or demoted at will.
Veteran receives French Legion of Honor Medal on Senate floor
Senate Minority Leader Anthony Hensley of Topeka led a resolution Wednesday honoring Cletus Simons, a World War II veteran who parachuted onto the beaches of Normandy on D-Day. Simons received the French Legion of Honor as a tribute for his service to help liberate France from Nazi Germany. The French Legion of Honor was established by Napoleon Bonaparte and is the highest decoration bestowed in France.
It was an honor and a privilege to recognize a hero.
· Mayor Joe Reardon gave his last State of the Unified Government speech this Tuesday, March 12. Thank you for your eight years of service to Kansas City, Kan.
· Congrats to Kansas City Community College debate team sophomores Ryan McFarland and Kristyn Russell for qualifying for the 2013 National Debate Tournament!
I would also like to congratulate two other Johnson County teachers, Tara Walrod of Sunrise Point Elementary and Juliann Bliese of Ravenwood Elementary, for receiving the prestigious 2013 Kansas Master Teachers award from Emporia State.
Ray Roberts and Jeremy Barclay, Secretary of Corrections.
Andy Barbee - Council of State Governments
Wendi Bono, Lorraine Martinez, Peter Neri, Emily Brown – Turner USD 202
Mark Wiebe, Tittane Masimbi, Brock Givan, Rocio Ambrosio, Kayla Robbins, Joshua Belz, Stacy Martin, Tanner Edwards – Wyandot Mental Health and PACE clients, staff and family.
Dodie Murphy – Merriam, Kan.
AskDoctorDebt.org is an invaluable resource for consumers on debt collection and their rights. AskDoctorDebt is available in English and Spanish – free, no registration.
BPU to hold free spring energy efficiency workshop
The Kansas City, Kan., Board of Public Utilities will sponsor a free energy efficiency workshop for the community and customers on Tuesday, March 26.
The event, which promotes energy efficiency techniques and tips on how to reduce energy costs during the summer, will feature speakers, industry experts, and several displays and demonstrations.
The workshop will be held from 4 to 6:30 p.m. at the downtown Kansas City, Kan., Public Library, Theatre Room (second floor), 625 Minnesota Ave., Kansas City, Kan. The event is family-friendly and light refreshments will be served. Topics and issues will include:
• “Saving Some Green This Summer While Staying Cool” – A presentation by BPU staff offering tips and techniques on how to reduce energy costs.
• “How to Do a Residential Energy Audit Yourself” – Representatives from Anthony Heating and Plumbing will teach participants how to conduct an energy audit on their home or apartment.
• “Efficiency Programs that Work” – Tom Lally, executive director of Heartland Habitat for Humanity, will describe successful energy efficiency programs utilized by this leading nonprofit housing group.
Participants will also be able to sign up for a free programmable thermostat from BPU (a $300 value), as well as a home energy audit with certified providers.
Because of limited seating, RSVP before March 22 by calling 913-573-9922 or email RSVP to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Business of the Year recipient
I had the pleasure of personally meeting Kari and Ron Wagner, owners of Mid Star Lab, Inc – Edwardsville, as they were recognized as a Business of the Year Recipient, awarded by the Kansas Small Business Development Center on March 12. This is a good example of a successful growing Wyandotte County business.
Important state phone numbers
Here is a list of numbers I often receive requests for during session. I hope you will find this information helpful.
Child Abuse Hotline
Crime Tip Hotline
Crime Victim Referral
Driver’s License Bureau
Department on Aging
School Safety Hotline
Children’s & Fam. Svcs (SRS)
Tax Refund Status Info